Laws: Wati Holmwood a Maori fella made good

Last updated 05:00 21/07/2013
THEY CALL HIM THE STREAKER: Wati Holmwood is a Maori fella made good, reckons Michael Laws.

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For more than half a million Kiwis, the semi-permanent trip across the Tasman is the best decision they've ever made. Having an economic powerhouse just off New Zealand's coast has kept this country afloat - both collectively and individually.

OPINION: For Maori, that experience is even more beneficial. All empirical and anecdotal research suggests that tangata whenua do better in Oz, than they do in New Zealand.

No-one is quite sure why. Academic studies mention the well paid jobs that simply don't exist in the Northlands, East Coasts and Bay of Plentys of Aotearoa. But the diminished influence of Maori culture is also posited as a positive. An ability to escape the more cloying and negative of ties, without complete disassociation.

It may also be down to personality. The kind of people that leave New Zealand looking for a better life are, by nature, more adventurous and optimistic. Like most migrants, they are determined to make their decision work. And to work.

Cue Wati Holmwood. In this country, all he ever had was the police knocking on his door and hassling him for minor stuff like shoplifting, resisting arrest and breaching bail. He didn't have a decent job and he was never likely to have one.

Simple answer: Forget the police stuff, grab the missus and kids, hop on a plane to Sydney.

Five years later and the man is now an international anti-hero. Whenever major sporting events are mentioned, whenever the State of Origin is discussed, whenever Kiwi achievers are considered - there will be Wati Holmwood.

A tall, fat man, every centimetre of his rotundness perfectly spray-tanned, head shaven and similarly toasted, captured forever in balletic pose.

It is an image that has flashed around the world and a streak that has already become legend, precisely because all the physical bits seem so incongruous. Even down to the complete disappearance of his naughty bit - front-on photographs showing that at least part of Wati was very scared indeed.

And Wati's timing was perfect. In a sporting event that had the greatest television audience of the year, at its most gripping and significant moment. Mere minutes to go, Queensland on attack, a clinching try in the offing.

Enter Wati. And the circus that ensued. Ill-shaped security personnel, draped in yellow, flailing after him. A blue-shirted policeman lying on top of him. A New South Wales defender, noting the mayhem, theatrically spread-eagling himself all over the mad assembly.

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It was as good as live sport ever gets. Not in the mad, sad, bad history of streaking has any individual ever made quite so dramatic an intervention.

Now people may call Wati an idiot, a moron, a goon, a gonad. They may throw the book at him in the Sydney courts. They may ban him from ever attending any sporting event anywhere.

But in this post-modern world - where reality TV rules, where stupid, talentless vacuous people are made megastars, where the America's Cup is all about single yachts racing themselves - Wati Holmwood stands supreme.

He's made it. A simple Maori fella from Nelson has made good. There's hope for all of us after all.

- Sunday Star Times


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